Armenia is а piece of the ancient world hidden among the majestic gray-haired mountains, the bearer of a centuries-old culture, a living proof of the spiritual power of the people who managed to defend their sacred right of existence, and, like the mythical Phoenix reborn from the ashes, rose over and over from the ruins, continuing the path of life. A path which unfortunately was not strewn with silk: in the chronicles of ancient historians our country is mentioned among other greatest countries, but centuries and millenniums walked by, the world has witnessed the most severe wars, the fall of powerful empires, the formation of new nations and, of course, Armenia could not remain aloof more than once getting to the epicenter of events. So which is the secret of such vitality? How were we able to maintain our national identity and cultural uniqueness despite the small territory? The answer, apparently, lies in the infinite faith, religion – ascended power that united the people struggling against the conqueror and assimilation. From the early days of Christianity (Armenia is the first country in the world that proclaimed Christianity as a state religion, 301 AD) till today the Armenians differ with their courage demonstrated during the wars for preserving religion on their motherland stretched out on the slopes of the biblical Mount Ararat.
“The nation, whose Christian faith is so old, the nation who did not turn away from Christ even after strongest storms and cruelest persecutions, the nation whose history is almost a ceaseless suffering, certainly deserves not only our compassion but also our love.”
Naturally such an attitude to religion was accompanied by the creation of numerous monuments belonging to the Christian architecture, such as Cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin, monasteries in Haghpat, Sanahin, Geghard, Khor Virap, Noravanq, Goshavank, Sevanavank, Archaeological Site of Zvartnots, and cemetery of khachkars in Noraduz, etc. (some of the above listed monuments are included in UNESCO's World Heritage List). Many of them have long been overgrown with various myths and legends, a fact which, however, makes them be more attractive to the researcher, adding special color.
Yerevan - the white-haired old man with a forever soul young, passing his own path in life, feeling, experiencing, jubilant... How many changes it witnessed during its long life, how sometimes radically changed its appearance. It was a fortress of Erebuni, established by king of ancient Urartu Argishti the first in 782 BC, and a small provincial town named Erivan, with a one-story adobe houses, narrow, crooked streets and alleys, when in 1920 it was proclaimed the twelfth capital of Armenia, and a beautiful modern city Yerevan, which combines together the ancient traditions with the requirements of nowadays. Today Yerevan continues to function as a living organism; the blood in its veins is not getting cold, and each guest of it involuntarily is being drawn into the circling events.
The heart of the city is the center from which the streets like a rays of the sun are being diverged reaching the suburbs. Here are focused most of cultural sights of the capital - Art Gallery of Armenia, National History Museum, the Museum of Literature and Arts, National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Metenadaran and other objects of national heritage. The main development plan of Yerevan belongs to the hand of the architect Alexander Tamanyan, and despite the many changes made to the project by life mainly in accordance with this plan today Armenian capital is being expanded and developed.
The city center also focused a lot of entertainment: at each step a tired traveler is being attracted by café tables, perched secludedly in the shadow of a tree, or a restaurant offering delicious dishes of national cuisine, which is considered to be one of the oldest in Asia.
There are lots of churches in Yerevan. Maybe they are hidden from the inquisitive glance of pedestrians behind stone buildings and did not differ in their splendor of decoration, but the austerity, the smell of candles and incense create a special atmosphere, allowing you to move away from the madding crowd, and think about their purpose. During all times, faith had been the cornerstone for the Armenians, the force that helped to survive and protect their national identity. Each step of Armenians’ life is connected with the church-his birth, christening, marriage, end of life.
Especially beautiful is the evening city under the soft lights when walking through the streets you hear snippets of someone's stories, children's laughter, familiar tunes, and your feet carries you to the Republic Square, where every day, exactly at 9 pm, is starting a small representation of the dancing fountains.
Day is rolled over, the last light goes out in a lonely window, and finally the tired city is plunged into a deep sleep. Tomorrow everything will start again - sunrise, hurrying about their business citizens, foreigners staring with interest on the face of the city, laughter, disappointments, victories and dreams...
The Мonastery of Geghard (meaning spear), originally named Ayrivank (the Monastery of the Cave) is a unique architectural construction founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. It is listed as a World Heritage Site. The name of the monastery complex comes from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Today it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.
The Khor Virap Monastery is one of the sanctuaries of the Armenian Apostolic Church and a pilgrimage site. According to the legend, this was the place for the king's dungeon, in the form of a deep pit filled with poisonous snakes and scorpions, where prisoners were thrown. By the order of King Tiridates III, one of the king's associates, Grigor (Gregory) was imprisoned and spent 13 years here as being guilty of preaching Christianity. The legend says that when by the order of the king three virgins Gayane, Hripsime and Shoghakat were executed, he fell seriously ill. The king’s sister Khosrovidukht had a vision where an angel told her about the prisoner Gregory who could heal her brother. Gregory cured the king and brought him back to his senses. Soon afterwards King Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 AD; Gregory became the first Armenian Catholicos, Gregory the Illuminator.
In 642 Catholicos Nerses III built a chapel around the famous pit, which was later destroyed by the earthquake. In 1662 the current St. Astvatsatsin church was built in its place.
The Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin was founded in the 4th century, soon after the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion of Armenia. It is one of the oldest state-built churches in the world. Etchmiadzin Cathedral is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. According to the legends, the first Armenian Catholicos, St. Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer to show where the cathedral should be built. Hence, the patriarch gave the church and the city the new name of Echmiadzin, which may be translated as "the place where the Only Begotten descended".